How are optimists different from pessimists? The fundamental difference between optimists and pessimists can be found in explanatory style. In the process of daily living we automatically attribute the causes of the events that we experience. The habitual way in which we explain things is called explanatory style. Your explanatory style is what you tell yourself and others when dealing with success and when facing a setback.
A person with an optimistic explanatory style views a negative event as a temporary situation; that the negative event will not spill over and affect other areas of their life; and believes that negative events are due to external circumstances, not personal characteristics. Take the example of the marathon runner who is disappointed in her race. She thinks, “Oh well, I have another race to run in two weeks and I can finish in the top five.” (bad events are temporary);” I will be ready to train for that race day after tomorrow” (bad events do not affect other areas of life); “It rained today and that slowed me down.” (bad events are due to external circumstances, not due to personal characteristics).
When explaining positive events, the optimist makes opposite attributions. The optimist believes that good events will last, will affect other areas of their lives, and they are responsible for creating the conditions for the good event. If, for example, an optimistic person wins an award for writing an essay, he would say “I can write more award-winning essays” (good events will last); “winning this award will help me get a university scholarship” (will affect other areas of life); and, “I worked hard to come up with the right topic to help me win” (responsible for creating the conditions of success).
As a result of this positive explanatory style optimists tend to have a healthy sense of self-worth because they believe that they are responsible for the good things that happen and not responsible for the negative events. When people believe that they are responsible for what happens to them their perception is one of control. People who operate with the notion of being in control are happier, and less likely to suffer from depression. They don’t blame or put themselves down when things don’t go as planned.
As a result optimists are willing to take risks when trying to achieve their goals, increasing the possibility that they will get what they want. If it doesn’t work out, they try again, because their attitude is that lack of success is not due to their inability, it is due to external circumstances. When you believe that negative events are temporary and that good events will last your mood is usually positive and stable over time. If you are able to restrict the effect of negative events and allow the rest of your life to be influenced by a positive event you are able to manage your emotions. Being able to manage your emotions is an important skill that will help you to get along with others and help you to achieve your goals.